Welcome to the AEW Dynamite Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points arising from AEW Dynamite. Check out the preview to see how right or wrong we were. Please note writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
-Shreyas: @OneeWingedAngel -Huw: @huwj87
-With thanks to JJ Williams for photography.
1) Chris Jericho passed labour three by hitting a diving Judas Effect off the top rope, to defeat long-time rival Juventud Guerrera. MJF then announced labour four, a match against Wardlow with MJF as the special guest ring enforcer. What did you make of the match and MJF’s choice of opponent for labour number four?
[Sergei] I seriously would’ve called a top-rope Judas Effect as the finish for this match but didn’t see how it would be physically possible to pull off. And yet this pair whose ages almost sum to three digits made it happen and look smooth, credible, and impactful. I was damned impressed.
Wardlow—with the only stipulation being MJF at ringside—seems a let-down after the amazing creativity of the first three Labours—especially #2 & #3. But it makes sense for Friedman’s character that perhaps he didn’t even plan this far ahead, thinking his first few great ideas would get the job done, and went back to basics when creativity had failed him.
When it comes to the outcome next week? I don’t think there’s any other way to go, but for MJF to make a mistake, (along the lines of the fumbled ring toss when he challenged for the World Title last year,) that costs his bodyguard this match, leading directly to what he’s been trying to avoid.
[Daisy] Unlike Sergei, I didn’t see a top rope Judas Effect coming in the slightest. I’m not a fan of the original and didn’t even factor it in when considering the stipulation. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense though, and I will say that it looks about a hundred times more badass than a regular Judas Effect. It did a great job of elevating this match after a so-so first half and a shaky (albeit commendable) effort from Juvi and Jericho.
As for labour number four... Wardlow is a solid wrestler, and he looks like he could crush Chris Jericho up like a soda can in his fist, so I can’t say I’ll be pleased to see him eat a Judas Effect and lose next week. But hey, maybe this is Wardlow’s star-making moment, and he’s set to come out on top. I’m kind of hoping for the latter.
[Dan] After two minutes it felt like this might be an absolute disaster, and even after that there were some very dodgy spots, but ultimately it got over with the crowd and I thought the ending was excellent. A particular shout out to Aubrey Edwards for her facial expression when telling Jericho he couldn’t pin Juvi after the regular Judas Effect. She is a genuine treasure.
As for labour no.4, many people will be disappointed with Wardlow after Gage, Juvi and some of the wild speculation surrounding this final step. However, I think it’s a tremendous show of faith in an ‘in-house’ project that AEW clearly have big plans for and is an example of AEW investing in their future rather than solely bringing in the star names.
The post-match beatdown was brutal from the big sexy bastard and I genuinely believe there’s a chance Wardlow gets the win. We will get to Jericho v MJF eventually, but TK has shown he’s not afraid to throw a spanner in the works of a long-term story...and maybe Wardlow is that spanner here.
2) How did you feel about the developments in the ‘Hangman’ Adam Page vs The Elite feud on the same night as AEW announce Christian Cage as the new number one contender? Hangman telling Dark Order he must do it on his own, as The Elite continue to mock and attack Hangman. Are we still getting Hangman vs Omega at All Out?
[Sergei] The real question to me is: what had Hangman been about to say? If the plan were to slow burn Page for a few months, I feel like they would have given him the opportunity to declare just that. The Elite sabotaging themselves by not allowing the Hangman to gracefully ride off into the sunset for a while says to me that this feud is (at most) going on the middle burner, not all the way back.
Also, I found the rift in the Dark Order between those who just wanted to help their friend no matter what and those who wanted to respect his independence both heart-breaking and beautiful. The way forward will be clearer next week, once we learn what the undefeated Christian Cage means by saying that he, too, is “elite.”
[Shreyas] I’m actually not sure when Hangman vs Kenny is going to happen. I will stick to my original instinct of it happening at Full Gear, but we still have about 8 more shows (including Rampages) till All Out so anything can happen if we’re being honest.
I for one am very excited about Christian being the number one contender. I am a massive mark for Christian, always have been. He is without a doubt my favourite wrestler of all time and him vs Kenny is genuinely at the top of my dream match list. However, I know I am an exception to the masses here, as Christian vs Kenny at All Out sounds extremely underwhelming as a replacement for Page vs Kenny to many.
Eddie Kingston or Darby Allin (who may be busy with a certain Cookie Monster Punk) seem more suitable opponents for a title match on PPV, despite my love for Christian (have I mentioned how much I like him?). Either way, I think there’s a good chance we get Kenny vs Christian on one of the first two Rampage shows, so I genuinely don’t know what the title program is going to be for All Out (I don’t think its Kenny vs Hangman), but I am very excited to find out.
[Dan] I don’t think we are getting Hangman v Kenny at All Out. But we may well be getting Hangman v Kenny at Arthur Ashe. I’ve been wondering for a while now which of those two shows AEW see as more important, and I just have it in the back of my tiny mind that Hangman beating Kenny in front of that crowd may be the way to go.
Either way I’m enjoying the story, and we do know that we’ll get the match eventually...so why not just enjoy the ride? I particularly loved Dark Order following Hangman’s wishes even whilst he was beaten down, and I’m massively invested on where they go with that next week.
As for Christian, they have a few weeks now to build him up as that no.1 contender. He’s there in terms of wins, but not in terms of star-power following a pretty tepid feud with Matt Hardy and his cronies. Christian Cage v Kenny Omega will be a fantastic match...AEW just now need to do the work to make it feel like one in the build-up.
3) Malakai Black really announced his arrival in AEW with a victory over Cody in less than five minutes. Cody then delivered a promo where he spoke about how his priorities have changed over the years, seemingly hinting at retirement, before Black returned and laid Cody out. What are your thoughts on all of this?
[Daisy] Now, I can’t lie and say I’m 100% on board with the post-match angle JUST yet. Do I have some hesitations about Cody going into a six-minute-long speech immediately after getting railed by the new scary demon guy on the roster? Yes, yes, I do. Did I appreciate Malakai materializing out to nowhere to nail Cody with a crutch and steal his little white boot? Yes, yes, I did.
I’m not the kind of person who will go around and say Cody failed to put Malakai over - he did a fantastic job of that, in fact. The angle just read as clunky to me - clunky and confused. What will redeem this entirely is Cody coming back in three months fully healed up (pun intended) and ready to start a new chapter in All Elite Wrestling as THE top villain. It’s far more likely he’ll just return with a new DJ Khaled remix of “Kingdom” and beat Malakai in his first match back, though. For America!
[Sergei] A common criticism of AEW is that they try to fit in too much and fail to let moments like this breath. When I realized that the match was over with six minutes left to kill, a thrill ran through me, because I had no idea where they were going with this.
Cody saying something along the lines of “Maybe Mr. Black is right that I need to go home for a while,” was well within what I thought might happen. But actually teasing retirement? That was a shocker. And then Malakai interrupting that announcement with an attack that’s bound to keep him around for revenge? He said on Road To... that he wanted Cody to “go home” because he cares and wants Cody to “be okay.” The crutch attack was like a big “yes, but NOT LIKE THAT!” making Black’s motives still rather murky. But I can’t wait to learn more!
[Dan] On our AEW Preview Roundtable I said they needed to do something to really make Malakai Black look like a heel if that’s the way they are going with him...and boy howdy did they do just that. Was the ‘retirement’ angle overblown? Of course, it was...it was Cody. But off the back of the immaculately spooky and powerful presentation of Malakai Black (I think I want to marry his ring-entrance), and the decimation that Cody suffered, I think this did make sense.
What we need for this to work properly though is for Cody to now take some time off. Let Malakai Black go and destroy other people on the roster whilst Cody licks his wounds and when The American Nightmare comes back, you then have several options of which way to take his character. Basically, I loved all of this.
[Huw] I’ve seen plenty of Twitter discourse that paints Cody as some kind of self-serving power-tripper, and surely now it’s time to put such discussion to bed. Once again, he has unequivocally and earnestly put another wrestler over at his own expense. You can add Malakai Black to a list which includes Brodie Lee, MJF and Darby Allin. And much like Brodie Lee destroyed Cody and scored the three without hooking the leg, Black’s pin was an emphatic boot-on-the-chest!
I would like to see the aftermath of this shock squash play out slightly differently to the almost immediate redemption that Cody earned last year, though. If we get a rematch at All Out, this will really cheapen the impact of what should be a very powerful and very decisive moment in Malakai Black’s AEW career. Don’t lick those wounds too quickly, Cody.
4) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[Sergei] Miro, without question. He turned Lee Johnson from project to prospect in one match. It’s amazing how he has developed this mystique of invulnerable and unstoppable and now uses it so the faintest glimmer of vulnerability makes his opponent look like a dragon slayer. The "selling by no-selling" he does after Johnson hits the DDT was the most amazing bit of business I've ever seen. He basically sat us down and explained the ring psychology of no-selling a devastating move: "You see, I actually am staggered, but I'm trying to hide it to destroy my opponent's confidence".
[Shreyas] Quite a few people come to mind, but I would love to highlight The Bunny (Allie) as a stand-out performer this week. She has killed it at every given opportunity this year and plays the role of the psycho-killer very well. She always makes her opponents look good and her mannerisms are very underrated as a heel.
The match vs Leyla Hirsch (who is also legit, pun fully intended) was very fun and no exception to the above. Allie has been vocal about her mental health and has spoken about how she couldn’t wrestle for a while because of impostor syndrome, and I for one am certainly glad that she is in a better place and thriving right now, a big candidate for Most Improved 2021 for me.
[Dan] Has to be Malakai Black for me. He spent a year in WWE sitting in a broom cupboard muttering gibberish and wanting to pick-Ahhhh a fight-Ahhhh with someone, before being chucked off a roof and losing an eye.
Yet in one match Malakai Black and AEW have shaken off all of that nonsense to present a dangerous and brilliant character. His entrance was delicious. His in-ring work was superb. And his post-match destruction of Cody was brilliantly malevolent. If this is what happens when AEW sign ‘WWE Guys’, then please let them sign as many as possible.
[Huw] As Dan has alluded to, Malakai Black’s entrance was an absolute triumph of pro-wrestling theatrics. He and AEW production needed to be careful not to veer too close to Aleister Black’s NXT shtick, so I thought this was going to be a bit of a minefield for them to navigate. Any misgivings were alleviated within ten seconds, though. Wow!
However, for me, Christian Cage was the week’s stand-out performer. He managed to take a match I had absolutely zero interest in and, through some masterful ring work, had me totally invested by the finish. I love the way Christian uses his environment so creatively when he’s dishing out punishment, yanking the top rope for leverage whilst choking Blade on the middle one or leaping to the outside to deliver one of his deliciously snug strikes. Even though he’s far from the flashiest performer on the roster, there’s something to be said for the welcome change of pace he provides and the unique dynamic his matches have.
5) What was your AEW match of the week?
[Daisy] Although Cody got annihilated in the main event, the chemistry between himself and Malakai Black as performers was a captivating watch. Going into this match, I was expecting Black to break out some of the old favourites from his indie move-set, but they weren’t really necessary here. He showcased his kicks, got a strong submission in, and Cody did a fantastic job of selling every single move.
Some might disagree on this being match of the week because it was verging dangerously on a squash, but I can’t emphasize enough how perfect the execution was. Malakai walked out of that ring a bona fide star in the eyes of the AEW audience, and it’s the strongest debut match (in terms of impact, not in-ring action) that I can recall in Dynamite’s history.
[Shreyas] Cody vs Malakai was definitely the spectacle of the week, and Miro vs Lee Johnson was my Dynamite match of the week, because it established Lee (who I already rate very highly) as a major future player for them as Miro continued to be one of the best things in AEW.
But my AEW match of the week actually comes from Elevation, in the form of Darby Allin vs Bear Bronson. Bear Bronson has lowkey been on an amazing singles run ever since his tag partner got injured, putting in great performances, even though most have been losses.
This was a classic David vs Goliath story, which in my opinion, Darby tells better than anyone in wrestling right now. Even though it was on Elevation, neither of the guys phoned it in, and put on a very fun 10-minute match with quite a few great big man vs small man sequences. The crowd was going absolutely wild for Darby, who I believe has ascended into another level this year and has a very unique aura about him.
An added bonus was David Crockett, an old NWA commentator and the son of Jim Crockett being on commentary, initially sounding unimpressed (being from the old school) before fully marking out for Darby by the end, who won him over with his unique offence.
[Sergei] Completely co-signing with Shreyas here. On Dynamite and on Elevation respectively, Miro and Darby each gave an absolute clinic on elevating your opponent despite defeating them on opposite ends of David vs Goliath matchups.
[Dan] Miro v Big Shotty was a wonderfully told and executed in-ring story, but as that has already been mentioned my pick goes to The Bunny v Leyla Hirsch.
I was worried that the match was going to be lost in all of the outside interference, which would be on trend for the AEW Women’s division, but they ensured that you couldn’t look away with their contrasting styles.
The Bunny is superb in the deranged lunatic role and as others have already said her in-ring work has improved hugely whilst in AEW. Whilst Leyla Hirsch is just fantastic. Her technical work is awesome, her feats of strength look impressive, and she just exudes a cool babyface character. The face-off with Kamille was crucial to making that match feel important, and I for one will certainly be tuning in to see whether Leyla can upset the odds.
6) How would you rate this episode of AEW Dynamite? Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
[Daisy] B-. A solid, serviceable show for AEW with some really fun matchups and an insane main event.
[Shreyas] 7.5/10 for me. Was bound to happen as this was kind of a filler episode in comparison to the super STACKED July shows. Still very good, progressed some important storylines, the matches were all good, and the main event angle was really well done (Yeah, I got worked).
[Sergei] Compelling, surprising, not rushed, continued the momentum of prior great shows building toward First Dance and All Out. The only aspect I had been disappointed with regarding prior instalments of my favourite show was the tokenistic approach to the Women’s division. A lot more work is needed, but tonight was a step in the right direction—with a serviceable, if de rigeur, promo segment with a plucky challenger interrupting the arrogant AEW World champ and a fantastic match followed by a striking David and Goliath standoff with the NWA World champ from the other side of a forbidden door.
[Dan] A good and steady B of a show. It was always going to struggle to match the mammoth cards of the last few weeks, but in many ways, it was good to see a return to the standard weekly show rather than the PPV-adjacent Dynamites we’ve seen recently. There were huge angles at the start and end of the show, a brilliant match between Miro and Lee Johnson, and further developments in the World Title picture. Looked at in isolation, this show probably deserves more credit.
[Huw] A solid and sound show which seemed to breeze by. I thought this was paced far more effectively than the overstuffed shows of recent weeks. This is a really encouraging sign for AEW, I feel, as it shows that Dynamite doesn’t necessarily need to be bursting at the seams with unmissable matches or moments to be enjoyable. I’d give it a B.